Image of God

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Genesis teaches not only the exemplarity of god relative to the created universe but also the correlative truth that man is the image of God (Gn 1.26). In fact, "image of God" is the theological definition of man that is the only basis for an authentic Christian anthropology.

It belongs to the nature of an image to imitate, in some manner and degree, the being and activity of the thing imaged. In classical theology, the relevant being and activity of God were regarded as those of a pure spirit knowing and loving itself. Therefore, of all the creatures of the material universe, man alone can be called the image of God, because man's soul and its faculties for knowing and loving are spiritual (St. Augustine, Gen. ad litt. 6, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum, 28.1:170200; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1a, 93.2).

The image of God that is in man by reason of his intellectual nature can be perfected by the "image of recreation" that is grace, and, finally, by the "image of glory" (St. Thomas, Summa theologiae, 1a, 93.4). But even the "perfect" image of glory will always be imperfect as image. This is because man can never achieve equality or identity of nature with God.

Only the Son is so perfect an image of His Father as to be equal to, and identical in nature with, Him. Hence it is that the word is called the image of God, while man is said to be created to that image. The preposition "to" implies the approach of the image which is distant from the exemplar (St. Thomas, Summa theologiae, 1a, 35.1, 2; 93.1, c. and ad 2). This "approach" of the image to the divine exemplar reveals the image as the dynamic source of man's striving toward "the mature measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4.13) and of man's transformation "into his very image from glory to glory" (2 Cor 3.18).

See Also: creation; exemplarism; exemplary causality; logos; man, 3.

Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) Tables générales 2:218186. h. gross et al., Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 4:108792. h. lesĚtre, Dictionnaire de la Bible, ed. f. vigouroux, 5 v. (Paris 18951912) 3:843844. h. crouzel, Catholicisme 5:123840. j. e. sullivan, The Image of God: The Doctrine of St. Augustine and Its Influence (Dubuque 1963).

[c. j. chereso]